Capital investment crucial to improve NHS efficiency


Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, has renewed calls for the next government to recognise the need to invest in NHS staff, infrastructure and estates in order to boost productivity.

His comments were made in response to the speech delivered by Labour Shadow Health Minister Karin Smyth at the Institute for Government’s annual conference earlier this week, at which she set out her party’s plans for improving NHS services. This speech referred to removing “waste in the system,” which, she said, was evident to patients and staff. 

“Every part of the NHS must have a collective focus on getting more out of what we put in. This is critical – not just to keeping costs down, but to improving care for patients,” she stated.

The well-worn examples cited included appointments missed due to letters delayed in the post, tests already done by GPs being repeated in hospital, delayed discharge, unnecessary bureaucracy and outdated or defunct technology.

However, as Matthew Taylor points out, the bigger problem is long-term under-investment in dilapidated estate. Health leaders, he says, are always looking at ways to improve efficiency, but mandating savings plans from Westminster does not address the problems that are holding back productivity gains, such as backlog maintenance.

“A new government should recognise the need to invest properly in the NHS: this means its staff, its infrastructure, and its estate. These are three areas where our members say that new investment could fuel increased productivity. But not all of this will have short-term benefits – training and recruiting enough permanent staff to drive down the spending on agencies will take many years. Throwing all the pagers in the bin will only save money if they are replaced with something cheaper.

“Local health leaders and their system partners should be empowered to target additional cash where they need it, not have their spending set centrally. 

“Capital budgets are already being raided to plug rising deficits in the day-to-day NHS budget caused by strikes and other cost pressures. NHS leaders have told us that increased capital spending is their priority for any new investment after the next election and underinvestment has been the number one issue holding back their progress towards greater productivity. The next government must boost capital funding to allow the service to address the maintenance backlog.”


Recognise the link

Read more along this theme in our Big Interview in the Jan/Feb issue of HEFMA Pulse magazine, in which Jane Renton talks to Chief Executive of NHS Providers, Sir Julian Hartley. Here’s an excerpt:

‘Those delays to repairs and rebuilding are also damaging productivity, something of a buzzword in the NHS. While much of the focus has been on hard-pressed staff trying to do more with less, the negative impact of decrepit workplaces on their performance has been largely ignored. “I feel very strongly that we don't always recognise the productivity benefits of capital investment,” says Julian.’

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